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Future Homemakers Of America ...

By Any Other Name

July, 1999


            Would a roll by any other name still taste as sweet?  Can a hem, if sewn by a him, be quite complete?

            Ah, what’s in a name?  I can stomach a little political correctness from time to time, which is a good thing given the general state of the culture in which we live.  It doesn’t matter much to me that flight attendants roam the aisles once worked by stewardesses or that sanitary engineers man brooms previously pushed by janitors.  Other than some of the silliness, my only real complaint is that the re-namers of things could be a bit less clunky about it.

            Case in point: the newly christened “Family, Career and Community Leaders of America,” FCCLA for short (if you consider a five-syllable moniker short).  The venerated Future Homemaker’s of America, or FHA, announced the change this month, one they believe will “resonate with today’s, and tomorrow’s, teens.”

            Their reasoning leaves me wondering whether they’ve spoken with an actual teenager lately.  By my observation the labels that draw adolescents tend to sound a lot less corporate, tags like “Smashing Pumpkins,” “Puff Daddy,” “The Phantom Menace,” and so on.  Maybe they should have considered something edgier, like “Homeys That Cook,” or “Stitch This, Sucker!”

            A FCCLA press release notes that their “programs now include areas such as financial management, career planning, the art of balancing family and career, leadership development and community service.”  A little different than the make ‘n bake image of yore, but the gist of it still seems to be teaching kids to take care of themselves, gushy 90s fluff aside.

            My interest in this?  I am a proud alumnus of the FHA, from an era when male membership was rare. Today, 45,000 of the organization’s 220,000 members are boys;   then, the four friends and I who joined en masse during our junior year were the first in our school’s history. 

            The faculty advisor seemed to me a crotchety old throwback who liked the idea of boys in her club about as much as a fallen souffle.  She was convinced that we were just there to meet girls, proving her to be narrow minded, old-fashioned, and an impeccable judge of character. 

Actually, she probably wasn’t much older than I am now and was really pretty patient with us once she saw that we weren’t merely there for the girls – heck, there was food, too.  But as I understood it at the time, she did check with the national organization and found to her chagrin no rule keeping us out.  You have to appreciate grace in defeat, and we did.

            Which brings up an interesting point.  An Associated Press story on the name change says that boys were first admitted in 1973; I have a yearbook proving my membership in 1970.  This leaves at least three options: AP is wrong, Mrs. Callamaras got bad information, or she wasn’t quite as cantankerous as she let on.  My bet’s on the first, but a near-dormant little corner of my heart tugs for the last.

            It is also possible she figured that when the Johnny cakes hit the griddle we’d find some new way to annoy adults.  This was no show-up-and-take-roll, get-your-name-in-the-yearbook outfit, not under the iron fist of Mrs. C.  There was to be no slack for boys.  If you weren’t man (or woman) enough to take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

            None of us did.  All five stayed through our senior year; four became officers.  I served a term as secretary and lost for president by one vote.  But more importantly, we did learn a thing or two about taking care of ourselves.

            My mother raised me with the idea that the main purpose of childhood was to prepare for the day you have to leave the nest, then leave.  She did the bulk of the heavy lifting, of course, but FHA also helped bring me along.  For that alone, the group, by any name, will for me be as neat.

            I still think they ought to hip it up a little, though.  Anyone for “Scary Spice: The Club?”



© 1997 – 2002 Brent Morrison






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